Andy Brownbill/Associated Press
“For me, I have this mentality that people don’t remember the runners-up. You might, but the winner’s name is the one that’s engraved,” Naomi Osaka said in a post-match press conference following her semifinal round win over Serena Williams.
Her name will be engraved for a second time in the Australian Open Championship trophy following a two-set drubbing of American Jennifer Brady Saturday, that mentality helping her to extend her winning streak in grand slam finals to 4-0.
Osaka overcame huge forearms from Brady, which seemed to enhance her own intensity, leaving her to meticulously place every necessary shot en route to a tough first-set win and a second that wasn’t so much.
The two-time Aussie winner’s dominance was on full display throughout the tournament as she dropped just one set in seven rounds of competition.
The victory also extended her unbeaten streak to 21.
They are staggeringly impressive numbers for a 23-year-old phenom in the midst of establishing herself as the top star of women’s tennis.
Women’s Final Score
No. 3 Naomi Osaka def. No. 22 Jennifer Brady, 6-4, 6-3
Osaka has never lost when she has made it to the quarterfinal round or higher in Grand Slam competition, making her one of the best big-game performers in all sports. She is also the first woman to win the first four grand slams of her career since Monica Seles.
Osaka remains humble despite her success. Addressing Brady in her post-match comments, she recalled their U.S. Open semifinal match from last September. “We played in the semis in the U.S. Open a couple of months ago and I told everyone that was listening that you would be a problem and I was right,” she said.
“I think we’re going to play a lot more matches so here’s to that,” she hinted of battles to come with the Pennsylvanian.
Osaka especially recognized the significance of playing a major tennis tournament at this time, in the middle of a worldwide pandemic. “I feel like playing a Grand Slam right now is a super privilege, and it’s something that I won’t take for granted,” she said in her on-court speech.
Perhaps more impressive than even her extraordinary play on the court has been the effect of Osaka’s inspirational efforts off-court. ESPN commentators Chris Evert and Chris Fowler and President of Tennis Australia Jayne Hrdlicka all celebrated the champion’s efforts to bring awareness to social injustice.
It is indicative of a transcendent athlete whose reach will extend far beyond her sport and only grow stronger with every championship trophy she hoists in victory.
Men’s Final Prediction
Novak Djokovic is the world’s No. 1 player and has overcome an oblique injury to make it to his ninth Australian Open finals.
The defiant 33-year-old also laid down the gauntlet to his opponent, Russian Daniil Medvedev, stating, “Pressure is always there, it’s what we do. Everyone talks about the new generation coming and taking over us, but realistically that isn’t happening still.“
And he is right. Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer continue to dominate men’s tennis despite a crop of young, hungry and immensely talented players hot on their heels. Sunday, Djoker faces the latest challenger to his throne in Medvedev, who may be the best player in this year’s Open competition.
Medvedev dismantled Stefanos Tsitsipas in the semifinals, the same player who eliminated Nadal one round earlier. Since November, he has beaten every one of the top 10 players except Federer, who remains sidelined.
He will leave Australia, at the very least, as the third-ranked player in the world, thanks to his extraordinary play in this tournament. A win over Djokovic will move him a spot higher to No. 2.
To do that, he will have to do something no other man has ever done: beat the Serbian in the finals in Melbourne.
Djokovic has a win percentage of 91 in Melbourne, has broken serve 45 times in finals play, and has amassed 100 aces in his six Open matches here in 2021, per ATP.
His dominance in Melbourne makes it extremely difficult to rule in the favor of his opponent.
But not impossible.
Medvedev has been phenomenal in this tournament and with Djokovic essentially daring the 25-year-old to beat him, the stakes have been raised. Look for the young Russian to do the unthinkable and become the one in Djokovic’s 8-1 Australian Open record by the end of Sunday.
Prediction: Medvedev def. Djokovic in five sets